Emerging from the iconic Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee is The Royal Sessions, a new collection of blues and soul classics invigorated by none other than Paul Rodgers. Aptly named for the studio and all its storied history, The Royal Sessions gleans inspiration from legends like Chuck Berry and Solomon Burke who recorded in the same location many years earlier, as well as from dozens of other artists who first inspired Rodgers to devote his life to making music. From “Born Under a Bad Sign” to “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” Rodgers breathes new life into songs deeply ingrained in the history of American music.
Born in England in the late 1940s, Rodgers was an integral part of the second wave of English rockers who dominated the music world in the 1970s as the lead singer of Free and Bad Company. In addition to founding two of the prominent rock bands of that decade, Rodgers commanded a voice notable for its strength and clarity – a voice that has retained its muscle through the four decades that have passed, as The Royal Sessions clearly demonstrates. On the soulful Redding classic “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” organist Charles Hodges provides an enduring background that meshes well with the composition’s recurring brass interludes as Rodgers’ vocals flow easily through the lyrics. A handful of other Redding originals, including “Dreams To Remember” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” appear on the album, but it is Rodgers’ version of “I Can’t Stand The Rain” that stays with listeners long after the music stops. Rodgers lifts his voice to the high notes Peebles first set in stone back in 1973 as though it’s a piece of cake for him, an easygoing vibe furthered by the track’s jazzy tempo.
As Rodgers explained in a recent Blues Rock Review interview, his goal with The Royal Sessions was to reinvent a hand-picked collection of prominent tracks authentic in both sound and style. Each of the tracks selected for the challenge are tried and true classics, a fact Rodgers respected as he completed the recording process. None of the ten songs on this collection were significantly altered from their original state, but that’s what makes it worthy. The Royal Sessions is simply Rodgers singing along to some of the soul recordings that inspired him as an artist, and it’s an enjoyable ride from start to finish.
The Royal Sessions is now available worldwide. As an added bonus, all proceeds will go to music education programs based in Memphis: the place where so many of Rodgers’ favorite artists came into their own.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– I Can’t Stand the Rain
– I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
– That’s How Strong My Love Is
– Born Under a Bad Sign
The Big Hit
– I Can’t Stand the Rain
Review by Meghan Roos